Steamboat Springs The road to Buffalo Pass is open -- barely -- in time for holiday hikers to access the southern end of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness.
U.S. Forest Service Range Technician Cap Kuney returned from his weekly trip up the pass to check air quality monitoring equipment and reported that 11 motorists had made the journey ahead of him. A week ago, on June 24, Kuney said he used a snowmobile to travel the last mile and a half to Summit Lake.
It's still not possible to drive over the top of the Continental Divide to North Park, according to Kuney.
"You can drive to Summit Lake, but just past the lake there is a snowdrift that is 4- to 6-feet deep and covers the road for about 100 yards," Kuney said.
Buffalo Pass Road (County Road 38) was open before June 20 last year, but that was an aberration.
"This is more of a normal year," Kuney said. "There have been lots of years when you couldn't drive to the top on July 4. I'd say it's about 50 percent of the time."
Buffalo Pass Road is in relatively good shape with only a few wet spots near the top, Kuney said.
Although hikers, campers and fishermen will be able to get to the summit, they won't be able to drive south on Forest Road 310 to Fish Creek Reservoir and a mountain bike trailhead that connects with the summit of Mount Werner.
"The gate is still closed," Kuney said. "There are so many snowdrifts. I took my ATV to the point where the power line crosses the road and there was a snowdrift that was 8 feet tall and about 20 feet across."
Kuney estimated it could be another two weeks before that drift melts.
Hikers who head for Buffalo Pass this weekend should be prepared to walk across snow; gaiters that will keep snow from falling into the cuffs of hiking boots are a good idea. Kuney estimated about 25 percent of the ground is still covered with snow.
There are numerous snowdrifts on Trail 1101 north along the Continental Divide toward the Zirkel Wilderness boundary.
The boundary is just north of Summit Lake. A Forest Service spokesman reminded wilderness visitors that bicycles and other vehicles are prohibited.
Elsewhere in the Routt National Forest, roads into California Park and Sand Mountain have officially opened. Routt County Road 80/Forest Road 150 is open for people driving into California Park north of Hayden. Forest Road 42 in Sand Mountain also is open.
A Forest Service spokesman said the road to the Slavonia Trailhead in North Routt is open. However, stream crossings remain dangerous and there are no reports of hikers making the Gilpin/Gold Creek loop.